Question: I don’t know if its seasonal affective disorder or just a simple case of the blues, but I am depressed and looking for some Bible verses that might help. Can you point me in the right direction?
Answer: Depression can be a complicated affliction; oftentimes involving a variety of environmental, physiological, and spiritual causes. Your question indicates that you are looking for scripture rather than a psychologist, so let me point you to the clearest case of depression in the Bible:
“[Elijah] went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” (1 Kings 19:4)
While I would encourage you to read the entire chapter, this verse is sufficient to establish the fact that the prophet Elijah was not only depressed, but even entertaining suicidal thoughts. The same Elijah who once stood on the mountain-top of spiritual victory was now stuck in the deep pit of depression.
It is here that we find your first source of personal encouragement: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man…” (1 Cor. 10:13). Even the great prophet Elijah experienced what you are experiencing, so please know you are not the only one. Christians get depressed too!
Why? Well, as you probably know from personal experience, the exact causes of depression can be extremely difficult to identify and this was also true in Elijah’s case: External causes may have included Jezebel’s hatred and his physical exhaustion (1 Kings 19:1-4). Internal causes are also hinted at in the text: Elijah was feeling alone, comparing himself to others, and engaging in general self-pity (1 Kings 19:10).
Again, identifying the specific causes of depression is sometimes impossible. The more important thing is identifying the way of escape. Here is how the passage describes Elijah’s escape:
1. God Came to Elijah – It is wonderfully comforting to see God taking the initiative in Elijah’s situation. Verse 9 says, “Behold, the word of the Lord came to him…”
2. God Called Elijah to Arise – Rather than responding to Elijah’s self-deprecating speech, the Lord simply says, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” (vs. 11)
3. God Commanded Elijah to Work – God also ignores a second speech from Elijah and essentially tells him to get back to work. There were seven thousand people back in Israel waiting for him to return.
While you are not a prophet and probably not experiencing the same things as Elijah, there are principles in this passage which may prove to be helpful as you seek to climb out of your own personal pit. I will apply them to close:
1. Listen for God’s Voice – He always takes the initiative in uplifting those who are downcast and this initiative always involves his word. Is your Bible gathering dust? Has the pew you usually sit in been vacant? If so, then the “silence from God” you are presently experiencing may be self-chosen.
2. Take the First Step – The first step out of a depressed state is always the most difficult to take. Like Elijah, we usually feel like just laying there in our misery. Nevertheless, God calls us to get up and take a step in the right direction. Taking any step in any direction is good enough at this point.
3. Go Do Something – I realize that advice does not sound very clinical, but the clinicians do agree. Even the Mayo Clinic’s website recommends outdoor activities and exercise as one of the lifestyle remedies to seasonal affective disorder.
Maybe this article is the first “still small voice” you have heard from God in a while. Maybe the first step you need to take is not certain. Maybe you are not sure what to do next. That’s OK. As I said earlier, “Christians get depressed too” and acknowledging that fact is a good enough place to start.
Furthermore, while there may not be seven thousand people waiting for you to get up and get back to living, my suspicion is that you do have a friend, family-member, or pastor that cares about you very much. Depression prevents us from seeing this, but it does not make it any less true.
If you honestly have no one to call, then I would invite you to call me any time. Here is my phone number: (608) 495-9220.